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Genevieve Piturro: “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”

Just thinking of ourselves as business owners/entrepreneurs/disruptors from the start is not a mentality girls and women are brought up thinking. We have to change the way we encourage girls to think at a younger age where boys tend to already have that confidence. Women sometimes have one extra step to take to prove themselves […]

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Just thinking of ourselves as business owners/entrepreneurs/disruptors from the start is not a mentality girls and women are brought up thinking. We have to change the way we encourage girls to think at a younger age where boys tend to already have that confidence. Women sometimes have one extra step to take to prove themselves where men do not. Women disruptors are “disruptors” because they have found the fix — sometimes the challenge is just getting the men to see it.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Genevieve Piturro.

Genevieve is a professional speaker, consultant, and author of Purpose, Passion, and Pajamas: How to Transform Your Life, Embrace the Human Connection, and Lead with Meaning. She was a TV executive in NYC for 20 years when a little girl’s question changed the course of her life — and she jumped off the corporate ladder. She began delivering pajamas and books to children in shelters and in 2001 founded Pajama Program, a national non-profit which to date has delivered 7 million new pajamas and new books to children. Genevieve has been interviewed on various national media including OPRAH, TODAY, GMA, CNN, Fox & Friends, O Magazine and Forbes and is the recipient of many awards. Piturro delivered her first TEDx talk entitled, “1 Idea + The Human Connection = 7 Million Pajamas and Books” in August.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I was a TV executive in NYC for 20 years when a little girl’s question changed the course of my life — and I jumped off the corporate ladder. I began delivering pajamas and books to children in shelters and in 2001 founded Pajama Program, a national non-profit with 63 chapters in the US and 7 million new pajamas and new books delivered to children.

I am now taking my 20 years of experience running Pajama Program to work as a professional speaker and consultant to help others discover their true passions and purpose like I did.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I quit a successful career at the age of 38, unmarried with no major savings, to found a nonprofit I had no business running. I did not even know what a 501C3 was but I was driven by the thought that all children had the right to a loving good night with fresh, clean pajamas to help them take on the challenges the next day might bring. I knew I had found my true purpose and once that happened, I could not ignore it. I am now teaching others the tools and methods needed to tap into their inner voice to find their true purpose and passion. Everyone says it’s the ‘power of one’ that changes things, but I know it isn’t, it’s the power of one-ANOTHER that moves mountains and moves people. I think that this message of leading with our hearts is disrupting the more traditional beliefs of management.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that

When I first decided to make my speaking reel, I knew I had to have professional videographers at my speaking engagements taking the video. No more “do it yourself” tripods or asking audience members to take video of me on their phones! I went to great lengths finding the best local videographers and balancing and re-balancing my budget to afford the cost because I felt it was necessary to produce the best sample reel I could. Several of my presentations were (and still are) keynotes at meal events. awards dinners, breakfasts, and luncheon ceremonies. I’ll never forget the first time I hired a videographer and spent money I didn’t have on the best one in the area…Even though my speech came after the meal was technically finished, the noise and visual from the servers clearing made it look like I was speaking in a bustling restaurant kitchen! To make matters worse, I wandered around the room when I spoke to get closer to my audience and make eye contact with as many people as I could. You can’t imagine how disappointed and embarrassed I was to view the video with my mentors as they watched me swerve to avoid crashing into the waiters, trip over fallen silverware and duck to avoid high trays being carried into the kitchen! Thankfully we all had a good laugh over it…and I know better now!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My mother for her loving support and for showing me what a good night routine is. My father for his work ethic, strength and teaching me determination. My husband for teaching me mediation and the ability to create clarity in my thoughts and the little girl I met in a shelter over 20 years ago who taught me what hope is.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I get asked this question a lot and as a believer in the power of the human connection and in the importance of meeting face to face, I struggle with the benefits of technology as it relates to connecting with others. During quarantine, technology has been the only way some people can see or speak with each other — this is positive. When people are walking down the street or standing in line for a cup of coffee, everyone has their head buried into their phones and no one is connecting with each other in person — this is negative. I have a talk titled: Why the Human Connection Still Eclipses Technology.

Yes, technology is disruptive…knowledge in a hand-held device is powerful and the ability to make a donation to a cause with the click of a button has been game-changing. The origin of Pajama Program and the stories we tell about our work and the people we serve are the most powerful tool in attracting support. It is amazing how a basic, almost insignificant item such as a pair of pajamas can be a “disruptor.” Nonprofits are one of the few remaining “emotional” pulls we have in our society and I think the human connection disrupts the way people think with their hearts vs their minds.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Put your money where your heart is. When you spend money, time, energy, and resources on something that brings you joy, the price will feel small compared to what you get in return. You’ll realize the change you’re making not only fulfills you, it contributes to the greater good. For me, the cost of not buying those pajamas would have been a far greater burden than my credit card debt.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway — Any major leap takes courage, faith, and an ability to train yourself to look up when your instinct is to look down. Whether you jump off the corporate ladder, change your life in another way, or simply make a commitment to try something new, fear will creep into your brain and your body. If your heart is crystal clear, put it in the driver’s seat. Your brain will figure out how to make peace with it and help you thrive under these new circumstances. But expect nothing to be the same. You, your relationships, and your work will be transformed. And transformation can lead to more fulfillment . . . for everyone involved.

Knowing that my heart voice will always be my North Star. My Mom is my North Star and she taught me to always be true to what my heart is saying to me and I will never be unhappy or full of regrets.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

If I can do it than anyone can. My goal is to show others — at ANY age and stage of life that they too can lead a life full of great passion and purpose.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Just thinking of ourselves as business owners/entrepreneurs/disruptors from the start is not a mentality girls and women are brought up thinking. We have to change the way we encourage girls to think at a younger age where boys tend to already have that confidence. Women sometimes have one extra step to take to prove themselves where men do not. Women disruptors are “disruptors” because they have found the fix — sometimes the challenge is just getting the men to see it.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Simon Sinek, “Start with Why”, Thrive (self-care is so important)

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Harness the power of the human connection to lead and inspire those around you. The more we are connected, the more we can accomplish.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

That’s easy — I keep it on my desk as it inspires me every day. It was a gift from my husband when I was first starting Pajama Program. It’s about commitment written by Goethe.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back — Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.genevievepiturro.com/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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